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Lesbian pulp fiction series: Boobs, boobs, murder?!, boobs

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© 1963 Jessie Dumont
160 pages

Content warning: Physical abuse, emotional abuse, pedophilia, sexual assault, homophobic language

Reading this was similar to watching season 1 of The Ultimatum: Queer Love. Come for the cover, despair over the depressing car crash of Sapphic relationships, be placated by boobs.

I picked this up for the cover. Was this shallow? Maybe. But could I turn down reading 1963's I Prefer Girls —in lurid red letters on the cover — on the subway? Absolutely not. Generally, I try to choose books that were written by Queer women, which means I've had to begrudgingly turn down titles like Satan Was a Lesbian (although I still plan to get this on a postcard).

However, all my efforts to get to the bottom of the pseudonym "Jessie Dumont" have been in vain. They've written another "Lesbians be evil" book called Made in Hell, and the author blurb claims they're a well-known Brooklynite author. But beyond that? Just static.

One thing about the author, whoever they are: they are absolutely wild about boobs. There is no boob that goes unremarked upon. In a particularly memorable passage, two women at a party have a boob-off in which they strip and flop their boobs around, followed by all the other women driven to strip and flop their boobs around, too. I could not detail a single face — but boobs? Muscly boobs, soft boobs, perky boobs, big boobs — down to the freckles on their areolas, they are lovingly detailed.

Beyond its tit obsession, this book is similar to stories like Gone Girl, Phantom Thread, and Twilight — noir "romances" in which a couple locked in mutually assured self-destruction mistake obsessive co-dependence for love.

In brief, Penny is a monstrous femme fatale who thinks people are only nice to her to try to manipulate her into having sex, so she might as well return the favor. She's manipulative, abusive, and cruel. Her prey drive is her only hobby.

Although Penny calls herself a Lesbian, she's open to all genders and only says about her partners, "I prefer girls, because they're so easy to dominate."

Marcella is Penny's older girlfriend, whom she compulsively cheats on. Penny then meets blonde virgin Bernice. Drama ensues.

In the end, Penny ends up back with Marcella. Penny also finds out that during her own amnesiac "red-outs," she horribly abuses whoever is nearby. Penny's been beating Marcella for years. Marcella won't leave her, because Marcella believes if she's not there, Penny will take out her violence on someone else and wind up in prison. Marcella, like many women in abusive relationships, thinks she's the only one strong enough to be with Penny.

Ultimately, it's assumed Penny and Marcella are locked in a death tryst until Penny kills Marcella like Edward kills Bella, the hot chick in Phantom Thread kills the old guy, and the other hot chick in Gone Girl kills Ben Affleck. If that's your thing, congrats. It comes in Lesbian flavor now.

There should also be a word about Bernice, the damsel-in-distress. Bernice is in a relationship with Mark, an abusive man who wants her to be his picket-fence housewife. Then she meets Penny and realizes some things. Bernice falls into the dilemma that many Queer women of then — and now — face: a sure thing with a man she doesn't care for or the risk of a relationship with a woman she does. Unfortunately for her, that woman is the abusive Penny. Bernice could deal with being poor and living in a shitty apartment; she could give up her material comforts for love. But that's not a choice she's offered. With no one on her side, she goes back to what she knows: a quiet life in the suburbs in the pocket of a controlling man.

The writing is not bad. There's some delightful banter, like when Penny asks a man, "Are you an actor? Then roll over and play dead." Or "I just came over to say hello." "Great. Now say goodbye." When Penny hits up an ex for a party invite and asks if she can bring a friend, he responds, "Do you have one?"

It also did have some lovely zingers, like "'Is a Lesbian someone who hates men?' 'Yes.'" Or, in reference to going to a Gay bar, the very "hey, fellow kids" phrase of "jazzing dyke-style."

In the end, like most pulp of that era, the moral seems to intend to be "damn, Lesbians are fucked up." From my vantage point at the peak of hundreds of devoured carcasses of happy Queer literature, I'm fortunate enough to be able to read it and say, "Damn, some people are fucked up, regardless of their sexual preferences."